The history books will never show it, but the Heritage Timberwolves went to the postseason in 2016.
But they never took the field. They were spectators.
To be the elite program third-year coach Matt Gracey wants, he looked to a fellow coach and program — Jon Eagle and the Camas Papermakers — to see how it’s done. That’s why Gracey took his players to watch the Papermakers’ first-round playoff game last fall.
But what the Timberwolves learned from the trip to Doc Harris Stadium was much more than watching Camas beat Enumclaw on its way to winning its first state title four weeks later.
Yes, the two teams are league rivals, but Heritage wants to be of the same quality. Last fall’s trip was a start.
“Hopefully,” Gracey said, “this new attitude will get there. It has rubbed off on the younger guys.”
Gracey knows his program isn’t there yet. But it’s all about baby steps, senior quarterback Michael Taras said.
Some teams speak about winning state titles, but Taras is taking a more realistic approach.
First, let’s win a league game, he said. Heritage went 0-4 in the 4A GSHL last fall.
Then, let’s aim for a winning season. Heritage hasn’t had that since 2008.
“Start with that foundation,” Taras said, “and build up.”
And it starts with something even Gracey had never done in 20 seasons of coaching high-school football. He named team captains for 2017 last November for a young team expected to start three underclassmen on the line. Heritage lost 10 defensive starters.
The senior captain trio of Taras, Robbie Meadors and Ammon Garrison already has made a difference before the season opener.
Let Gracey speak of the result.
“I don’t have to yell anymore,” he said. “They’re handling it themselves, and it’s kind of refreshing.”
It’s a change of pace for a team that hopes to change its pace this fall. Last season, Heritage was the only team to lead Camas at halftime during the Papermakers’ run to the state title. And that only fuels the motivation for players like Garrison, also a returning starter.
“We want to compete with those guys,” he said. “… it all starts with believing.”
2016 Record: 4-5, 0-4. Fifth in 4A GSHL
Best State Finish: Regional Round in 2007
Returning All-League selections in bold
QB Michael Taras 6-2 190 Sr.
RB Kahai Umiamaka 5-8 180 Jr.
WR Chase Hendy 5-9 170 Sr.
WR Jordan Oliveras 6-1 175 Jr.
WR Ammon Garrison 5-10 165 Sr.
TE Robbie Meadors 6-0 185 Sr.
OL Solofua Vercher 6-4 270 Soph.
OL Andrew Thom 5-11 200 Jr.
OL Cade Gardner 6-1 215 Soph.
OL Adam Gray 6-1 265 Sr.
OL Hunter Larson 6-3 275 Sr.
* * *
DL Solofua Vercher 6-4 270 Soph.
DL Cade Gardner 6-1 215 Soph.
DL Quobe Altig-Johnson 5-10 175 Sr.
LB Robbie Meadors 6-0 185 Sr.
LB Antonio Mata 5-9 180 Jr.
LB Skylar Scoggins 6-1 175 Soph.
DB Ammon Garrison 5-10 165 Sr.
DB Orlando Patino-Gonzalez 5-6 170 Jr.
DB Niethan Stanley 6-0 170 Sr.
DB Kahai Umiamaka 5-8 180 Jr.
DB Michael Taras 6-2 190 Sr.
Coach: Matt Gracey (third year)
Home games at McKenzie Stadium
League games in bold
Sept. 1, at Prairie 7 p.m.
Sept. 8, Evergreen 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 15, at West Valley-Yakima 7 p.m.
Sept. 22, Redmond 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29, Union 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6, at Benson (Ore.) 7 p.m.
Oct. 12, at Camas 7 p.m.
Oct. 20, Battle Ground 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27, Skyview 4:30 p.m.